Maybe Sam won't remember this but we met on the plan home from Durban to London. It was fairly eventful as the windscreen of our aeroplane developed a large crack and after 4+ hours on the tarmac we were shipped off to Johannesburg before being flown home the next day (after another delay)! Sam was sitting behind my friend Minna and I and she was chatting non-stop behind us. I didn't know who she was initially but after some eavesdropping I figured pretty quickly that she was a very speedy runner!
That was in 2019 and since then she gone on to break the British women's 100 mile record twice, qualify for the GB team for the 100km World Championships and become part of the teamhour7 ultra-running team. It's fair to say I'm totally in awe of her achievements. I asked her some questions about her training and life....
I’m 42 years old and a single-parent mum of two. I live in South Oxford but am originally from Marlow. I work full-time in IT Programs, have a full-time job as a mum and train like a fulltime athlete and have three rescue dogs. Many don’t know this, outside of my close friends, that I am a Gemini and a Twin!
Sadly, my coach for 4 years passed away unexpectedly last year. He was Norman Wilson and someone many of us must thank for pushing ultra-running in the UK and he would have continued with the support of fellow fanatics! I am now (and was) receiving support and physiotherapy from Andy Walling, who is a former GB physiotherapist & coach. He has resumed this role full time and we have a great working relationship.
My juggling of work, life and running is a case of less thinking and more doing! I have balanced it for 18+ years through pregnancies, fulltime work etc. Back in the day 3 months paid maternity leave was all you got. I’ve been fortunate to have had a great mix of friends and relatives that have covered or babysat or supported over the years. Sometimes it’s been a massive headache driving miles and miles for a race but it’s what you do.
I always loved the longer runs and cross country at school but at 18 I failed to get into London marathon and so I settled for the gym. It wasn’t until working in Recruitment for an IT software company I had an opportunity to run as they had charity places. So, I embarked on the London marathon journey with a few IT support managers with 10 weeks training in 2006. With little training but a good fitness base I ran 3 hours 16 minutes and 1 second and I knew I could run quicker… then the competitive side kicked in!
I love the 100 mile and 24hr races. However, after the recent 100km race where I qualified for GB, I also enjoyed that too. Honestly, I love having a good range from 10km - 24hr and hopefully beyond.
I train using a 7-day training cycle from Sunday to Saturday. It’s similar to marathon training with long races put in and the odd 50km training run. I still do track on Tuesday, efforts on Saturday and a lot of easy running in between. I’m nearly 43 and need to take care of my body, gone are the endless junk miles!
I take iron and calcium supplements, and a vegan multi-vitamin.
Before a race I love a Chip butty and white carbs! During a race, I love a Marmite sandwich. I don’t enjoy race food but the longer you go, the better the food looks! Gels make me sick to be honest, and fatigue. Also, what works one time doesn’t always work the next time. After a race it’s a chip butty and bread with olive oil. And a pint of lemonade and lime.
I love running on the trail along the Thames Path. Although I’m a road runner mainly I do love light trails. Company is also key if I want an easy run. I hate traffic noise.
My running highlight was getting the British record last year for 100 miles, smashing it by 24 mins and getting the 12hr record too. That along with getting my first GB vest at 36 years old for the 50km in Doha. I’m just blessed and fortunate my body allows me to do this. My favourite races were my first World 50km Championships in Doha and, although with a back fracture, the experience of the Comrades Ultra in 2019. My best performances have been between 50km and over 24 hour and I’m still improving. At nearly 43 I’m close to my personal bests 10 years ago. Every race has meaning.
I’ve had plenty of worst performances where my head hasn’t been in it, or I have tapered enough. It was so hot in 2018 and I pulled out of the Centurion Thames Path 100 miles race at 62 miles in. I had serious hydration issues along with many others. I tend to reflect and move on very quickly.
My running and life philosophy is to just keep moving. Right now I’m loving the journey and building new challenges.
Music, friends and family being proud of me, past experiences and trauma. All those things motivate me. More importantly, mental health. I break down races into bite size chunks also use the strategy of speed variation.
I love my GB running kit! I love a good pair of running shorts and Balega running socks. I use same running shoes in training as I’m not precious about using them. It’s not unusual to see me in my Nike Vapourfly shoes while walking my dogs. My mum has my trainers for walking after me, so they really do go to their end of their lifespan!
I’ve got better at coping with injuries. I had a foot stress fracture in 2013. With that I had 4-5 months out, had surgery and was on crutches. In 2017 I had glandular fever on and off for 11 months, was in denial and not finishing races. Looking back, I overdid the racing in 2016 and it tipped me over the edge! Then I had a back fracture in 2019 which it was the worst pain. I think months of running with the laptop to the train for work did it. The laptop was smacking on my lower back, then wearing stilettos at my 40th birthday party tipped it over the edge. Again there was a long recovery process and I missed GB opportunities and did no exercise for months and had a slow build up again. At the time I wasn’t sure to what extent I was injured so I still ran Comrades… in pain! Then eventually I came back to racing ready to go and BOOM covid hit! These days I do strength work three times a week to incorporate stretching and lifting in my running program.
There are too many people to mention who have influenced my running. I love seeing everyday people achieving goals. Most recently I’ve loved being part of Teamhour7, the first supported ultra-running team.
Coming up I’ve got the Grand Union Canal 145 miler, the 100km World Champs for Great Britain and I’m looking at other British records to target. Along with 24hr World champs next year!